Arkansas Mobile Sports Betting Could Be Legal By March

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Arkansas mobile sports betting could be legal by the end of March.

If approved by the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) on Dec. 30, proposed mobile and online sports betting rules would still require state legislative approval and filing with the Arkansas Secretary of State before they can take effect –  but neither is expected this month. 

A state legislative rules subcommittee tasked with reviewing gaming regulations is unlikely to take up the issue until mid February,  Arkansas legislative staff told Gaming Today on Tuesday. Once reported by the subcommittee, the rules have to be approved by the governing Arkansas Legislative Council (ALC) before they could be filed with the Secretary of State. 

It takes 10 days for ALC-approved rules to take effect after they are filed with the Secretary of State. That, legislative staff says, would likely push the effective date into March. 

Mobile and online sports betting rules expected to come before the state racing commission on Thursday would be permanent regulations. Emergency regulations – which could expedite an online sports betting launch – could be considered at some point, legislative staff said, although that’s not expected to happen this week.

Unlike permanent rules, emergency regulations expire after 120 days.

When Could Arkansas Mobile Sports Betting Launch?

A mobile launch could come later than March, depending on the ARC’s regulatory timetable.

Comments by ARC officials in recent months point to few delays, however.

ARC spokesperson Scott Hardin last fall told KTHV-TV he is hopeful that Arkansas mobile sports betting will go live by early 2022.

Retail sports betting has been legal and live through licensed casinos in Arkansas since July 2019. 

How Arkansas Mobile Sports Betting Would Work

Casinos with retail sportsbooks would be allowed up to two mobile sports betting skins under the proposed rules.  That would give all three licensed casinos now operating in Arkansas – one in Pine Bluff, West Memphis, and Hot Springs – the chance to operate online sports pools, with state regulatory approval. 

A fourth, newly-licensed casino yet to be built in northwest Arkansas could also enter the mobile sports betting fray. A timeline for construction of that casino is still uncertain. 

Net Gaming Revenue Sharing Issue

Additionally, the proposed rules spell out how net gaming revenue from mobile and online sports betting would be shared by a casino and third-party operator.

As proposed now, sportsbooks contracted to operate mobile and online sports betting for a casino would be prohibited from receiving more than 50 percent of the mobile and online net gaming revenue. 

Not all sportsbooks are happy with that idea, based on some news reports that indicate big-name books like DraftKings and FanDuel are lobbying for a bigger share. 

John Burris is a former Arkansas state legislator who is now a lobbyist for DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Fanatics, and Bally’s. A Nov. 19, 2021 story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette quoted him as saying the proposed net gaming revenue split is “something that should be negotiated between the parties, with (ARC) approval on the back end.” 

“Our issue with that, simply put, is that we don’t believe that it is the state’s role to dictate business-to-business arrangements on a revenue share agreement,” Burris reportedly said.

The ARC has taken a different tack. Giving third-party operators more than a 50 percent share of net gaming revenue from online sports betting, ARC attorneys say, could be found unconstitutional.   

At issue is the classification of sports betting as casino gaming under a 2018 constitutional amendment. ARC attorneys have said giving third parties a majority share of net gaming revenues could draw a constitutional challenge. 

What To Expect This Thursday

Consideration of the proposed rules by the Arkansas Racing Commission will begin this Thursday at 11 a.m. CST. The meeting is expected to be streamed on the Arkansas Citizens Access Network (PBS). 

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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